July 9th, 2014

Spotlight on Success: How Leah Improved Her Credit Score by 100 Points in One Year

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Recently, we introduced you to Tommy, who paid off his student debt years ahead of schedule. We’re back this week to share the story of another Credit Karma community member, Leah, who managed to take her credit score from tragedy to triumph.

Leah’s Story

Leah’s credit awakening happened at a critical time – while she and her husband were obtaining the mortgage for their first home, a cozy bungalow in Atlanta. Although Leah thought she had a great relationship with credit, she was alarmed to find that she actually didn’t have a score that would qualify her and her new husband for the best possible mortgage rates.

While she checked her credit reports yearly and saw no red flags, Leah didn’t know her actual score before applying for the mortgage. While still above average, her score would lead them to pay tens of thousands of extra dollars over the life of the loan – way out of line with the couple’s frugal lifestyle. They made the decision to proceed with the loan in her husband’s name only. Leah was heartbroken: “I’ve got to get on top of this,” she remembers thinking.

This incident prompted her to join Credit Karma and take control of her credit score. She was determined to never find herself in this situation again. Despite working in the financial world at an asset management company,   Leah had been blissfully unaware of what impacts a credit score, just like many consumers. After looking at her Credit Report Card, she quickly realized her high credit card utilization rate was a serious turnoff to lenders—she had high balances on two 0% interest credit cards. While she wasn’t paying any interest, the utilization rates damaged her score. She immediately began focusing on paying down these debts.

Just a few months after paying down her credit cards, she began to see gradual improvements in her credit score. The average age of her accounts gradually increased, and a hard inquiry that was holding her score down started to carry less weight. A year later, her credit score is a full 100 points higher. By improving her score, she feels like she’s finally “earned” the home and interest rates she and her husband were given. Now, Leah can be confident that she would be approved for the best interest rates available. Leah and her husband have continued their frugal lifestyle and now she focuses on maxing out her IRA each year. “You have to approach it as a marathon, not a sprint,” Leah says of personal finance.

Words of Wisdom

Currently, Leah is a self-employed personal finance blogger and financial adviser, where she has been able to use her knowledge of credit scores to help others.  She encourages anyone starting off on their path to financial enlightenment to dive in and learn what factors affect their credit score. Once you’ve figured out your “weak” areas that are holding your score down, it’s easy to get to work improving them. As we’re fond of saying at Credit Karma: knowledge is power.

Disclaimer: All information posted to this site was accurate at the time of its initial publication. Efforts have been made to keep the content up to date and accurate. However, Credit Karma does not make any guarantees about the accuracy or completeness of the information provided. For complete details of any products mentioned, visit bank or issuer website.


Kayleigh Gaddor is the Community Manager at Credit Karma. Not content to stay in one place too long, she’s most recently traveled to Hong Kong, Scandinavia and Hawaii. An avid reader and proud introvert, Kayleigh can usually be found with her head buried in her Kindle.

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  1. I just found that I have a credit card listed that I did not apply for and several credit inquires that I did not authorize!! How do I get rid of these?

    Susan D at 6:41 am on July 10, 2014
  2. Mike

    Hi Susan – Thanks for the question. All of the information displayed on Credit Karma comes directly from your TransUnion credit file. You can find more information on filing a dispute with TransUnion here: https://www.creditkarma.com/article/dispute-credit-report-errors

    Mike at 9:44 am on July 10, 2014
  3. to slow to update information. My car loan still at its peak and I have made 4 payments and it won’t move, but I spend money on a credit card and it pulls down my score.. I know, do’t tell me credit cards are 30% of my score.. Just want car paymnets and loans to update every month as they get paid down… good website to use as a tool or get info from but doesnt update my score like it does with real credit companies as in transunion, experian, so on…

    ken at 10:06 am on July 10, 2014
  4. Mike

    Hi Ken – Thanks for your comment. All of the credit report information on Credit Karma comes directly from TransUnion. If your car loan totals are slow to update, it could be because your lender is delayed in updating your account with TransUnion. If you’d like to dig into this further, I’d suggest you contact our great member support team. You can file a ticket with them here: https://www.creditkarma.com/about/help


    Mike at 9:12 am on July 11, 2014
  5. Hi,

    Aug of this year will be the 7th year since my last terrible derog comment on my credit. When will i see it drop off my credit? If it drops off does this mean my Credit score will go up? What is the avg the score goes up every 2 months if everything is paid on time and over the min. payment?
    sorry for all the questions, im just striving (a little late in the game) for perfect credit.


    Amy at 11:56 pm on July 11, 2014
  6. Mike

    Hey Amy – Great questions! The date of drop off depends on the type of derogatory mark, so I’d recommend doing some research about the specific type of mark you have on your report. You can find more information on how its removal might affect your credit here: https://www.creditkarma.com/article/what-is-a-derogatory-mark

    If you have more specific questions about your report, I’d also recommend contacting our support team. You can reach them here: https://www.creditkarma.com/about/help

    Mike at 9:18 am on July 14, 2014
  7. I’m new to working on my credit. I see I have some large collections and some small. I see one from Verizon which is only 77 dollars (I thought I had paid off but apparently not) it’s almost up to seven years but I was just going to pay it. I heard that if you pay something off it starts back over so am I to understand that once I pay it will be on my credit as paid for seven years?

    Autumn at 1:43 pm on July 15, 2014
  8. Mike

    Hey Autumn – This is a great question. I’d recommend asking over in our advice center to see if anyone has dealt with a similar situation: https://www.creditkarma.com/all/advice

    Thanks for using Credit Karma!

    Mike at 9:51 am on July 16, 2014
  9. I have three credit cards showing on my account (here in Credit Karma) that belong to my husband only. Cards he opened before we met and are in his name only, how do I get these off my list of credit cards in credit Karma? They are not on my TransUnion account.

    katherine at 9:45 am on July 20, 2014
  10. Mike

    Hi Katherine – Thanks for your question. All of the credit report information on Credit Karma comes directly from TransUnion, so if it’s not there then it shouldn’t appear here. For further investigation, I recommend you file a ticket with our member support team. You can reach them here: https://www.creditkarma.com/about/help

    Mike at 9:10 am on July 21, 2014
  11. I’m working with US Credit Repair Services to help clean up my credit will this have a positive effect on my credit score.

    Nena Grimes at 5:47 am on July 23, 2014
  12. Mike

    Hi Nena – Thanks for the comment. This question seems like a good fit for our Advice Center (https://www.creditkarma.com/all/advice). It’s likely that other Credit Karma members have had experience in similar situations, so I’d recommend posting your question there. Thanks again!

    Mike at 8:58 am on July 23, 2014
  13. Hi! Since I joined Credit Karma (a month ago or so) I learned that the credit utilization on your accounts plays such an important role on your credit scores!

    I’m trying to refinance my car and my bank’s loan officer recommended me to pay-off at least 1/2 of my current balance on 4 cards to get a 1.1% APR and in my current situation I’d have to pay 6.24%. What a difference!

    I’m working on lowering my credit utilization now and hopefuly my credit scores will jump to at least 700! That’s my goal for 2015.

    My daughter just joined Credit Karma last night and was so happy to find out that her scores are over 700!! I’m so proud of her because she listens and follows my advice.

    Thank you Credit Karma! I love you!

    Linda Perez at 11:43 am on April 22, 2015
  14. Mike

    That’s wonderful to hear, Linda! Thanks so much for your comment!

    Mike at 5:13 pm on April 22, 2015
  15. I just paid off a car loan I went the full term and never missed a payment and the creditor closed my account and my balance is zero now my credit score went down about 75 points why?

    David Thompson at 8:16 pm on May 16, 2015
  16. Enola Guerrero

    Hi David – Unfortunately, we do not have additional insight to why your score has dropped, there can be numerous reasons to why it changed. You can read more about credit score changes here: https://www.creditkarma.com/article/MyScoreDroppedWhy

    Enola Guerrero at 10:04 am on May 19, 2015

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